Stanley Cups, Vezinas, gold medals, broken records...this is the gist of what Martin Brodeur has accomplished throughout his decorated 15-year career. Like him or hate him, you have to admit he's one of the greatest goaltenders to ever play the game and is arguably still one of the best. To say Marty has nothing to prove anymore is a debatable topic that I contradict with good reason.
This season could be vital if Brodeur still wants to be considered one of today's elite goaltenders. In the past 4 years, Brodeur played stupendous in the regular season but declined after the trade deadline. Last year was no exception. Say Brodeur was overplayed, tired and injured, but when you're deemed a high quality player, it comes with high expectations and huge roles to embrace. Another excuse is at 37, he's up there in age...Chris Osgood just played in his second consecutive Stanley Cup Final at 37, Dominik Hasek won a Stanley Cup at 37, and in 2008 at 43. You can counter that with the fact Detroit is simply better than the Devils and Osgood and Hasek split their regular season starts, which Brodeur is reputable for doing the exact opposite of. Marty chooses to overplay himself and with Lou behind his back, there's little anyone can do about it.
Cutting Marty's workload is just one thing needed to stop tainting Brodeur's glamorous reputation, the red bull seasons, and early playoff exits. It's been said this is the year Brodeur plays less for the past 2, 3 years but it never happens. If Marty wasn't injured last year, there's no doubt in my mind he would've played over 75 games with the events that occurred after the trade deadline standing. He would've won 35+ games, keep his GAA under 2.30, and probably earn a Vezina nomination, which means nothing if that success doesn't continue in the playoffs. What I'm getting at is it's been the same with Marty since 2003, a trend that seems to have caught up with him and ultimately place him at the climax of his career capable of producing 1 or 2 self-explanatory endings.
This year, Brodeur won't fool anyone if he's enjoying another impressive run, while the Devils have a comfortable division lead halfway through the season. I realized this after the past 2 seasons displayed different scenarios. In 2008, offense was scarce, but their defensive game kept the Devils dominant the first 3/4 of the season. Last year, the offense produced, but the same outcome occurred. The commonality was the late season collapse and first round exit, both instances of which Marty's quality of play mirrored his team's success.
The grave significance for Brodeur is great this season because this could be his last chance to prove doubters wrong and have his regular season success taken seriously. The summer theme of change must continue into the regular season, particularly on Brodeur. No matter how good or bad the Devils do, Marty needs to play less. Not only is he distributed more rest, but the team needs to realize they don't need Marty between the pipes to win. Last year he was injured and the team had to step up, whereas this year they must realize they can play without him at will and not because they have to.
Cutting Marty's workload should come out of the team's division matches. Between Marty being the franchise face, his ego, and Lamoriello, it's unlikely this will happen. Like I said in a previous write up, Marty's lost more than he's won against division opponents the past 2 seasons, whereas when Scott Clemmensen played, he won almost twice as many games against division rivals than lost. My opinion stands that after years of playing against Marty so often, he's been figured out and not seen as the monumental obstacle he once was. At his age and his proven instability in net late in the season, it doesn't make division matches easier for him.
Helping Marty's cause is going to be a team effort. Aside from knowing they can play confidently with or without him, their game needs to change. The Devil's decline in play the past 2 seasons appears to originate from a sudden inability to function in their own zone. Knowing Lemaire's specialty and his intention to instill a two-way system to play can hopefully provide a remedy for that, especially when he's stressed in interviews that successful teams in recent years play well in their own zone just as well as they did in their opponent's.
The playoffs is where it counts and determines if any successes achieved in the regular season was worthwhile. After witnessing the way the Devil's campaign ended in April, was anyone thinking about when Marty broke the all-time wins record? Instead, Marty was the subject of doubt and criticism after he and the team were unable to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs yet again. I hope I wasn't repetitive and I know what I'm saying now has been the same concerns and ideas said differently for years now, but the only difference about this year, like I said is it could be the last year Marty is given the chance to prove he's still a contending goaltender and he still has what it takes to play his part in spearheading a Devil's crusade for a fourth Stanley Cup.